The Celebration of All the Saints is a unique kind of celebration. Generally, in the Church calendar we celebrate things or people specifically and individually. Occasionally we celebrate a whole group of martyrs – the companions of St. Paul Miki, the Chinese Martyrs, etc. When we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, we are invited to consider and rejoice at the reality of holiness in a more general way. The feast of All Saints isn’t just for the “ones that we missed,” but it is a reminder about the reality of what the core of holiness is and that heaven isn’t just an exclusive place for the elite heroes whose lives are a marvel to the rest of us. How discouraging it would be if you had to become famous in order to be sure you have a place in heaven. There are plenty of famous people, even famous Christians, whose holiness still isn’t enough to get them canonized. We are not trying to become canonized saints in this life. One of the requirements to become a canonized saint is to perform miracles after you die. If God wants you to become a canonized saint, He’ll help you do that after you die.
The whole point of having canonized saints is to demonstrate what God’s grace is able to do in the lives of people who want it and who let it transform them. The canonized saints are clear examples of the marvels of God’s grace. They can help us desire to have God bring about marvels in our own lives: marvels of conversion, experiences of God’s love and forgiveness, experiences of the weight of our own lives and sufferings lifted and made light by His mercy. So the celebration of All the Saints is a reminder of the vast multitude that God brings into eternal bliss by His grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. That beatitude is the place where the universal call to holiness begins. Being poor in spirit means we recognize that nothing in this world can fulfill our core ache for happiness and meaning – it can only be satisfied by the one who created us. This drive for God leads us to ask daily for his help, His Grace, His forgiveness – in this way He will make us holy, He will make us saints.
ANDREW OF CAESAREA:
This was revealed long ago to Ezekiel concerning him who was clothed in a fine linen robe and who sealed the foreheads of those who mourned so that the righteous would not be destroyed along with the wicked, since the virtue of the saints is hidden and is unknown even to the angels. This is shown also here to the blessed [John], that a preeminent holy power encourages the avenging holy angels to do nothing until they might recognize the servants of the truth by virtue of their having been sealed. Although this has happened partially long ago when those who believed in Christ fled from the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans into very many destinations, the great James having showed to blessed Paul their great number,13 then, as has been said, this will especially occur at the coming of the antichrist when the seal of the life-giving cross will separate from the faithless the faithful who bear without shame and with boldness the sign of Christ before the impious. Therefore, the angel says, “Do not harm the earth of the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” Just as the creation, created for our sakes, shares in the torments with us who are being chastised, so too it will be made clean with the saints who are being glorified. Through these words we learn that the virtuous will require the power of angelic assistance before the arrival of the trials which come because of the seal of the Spirit which is given to us. [We learn further] that this seal will reveal its power to that extent that we add our own work to it, for everything remains without aid which by its own will wills not to be aided.1
[He sees] the countless thousands from the Gentiles who, having received faith and having attained the blessed portion, have been allotted a place in the glorious choir and stand before the Lord and the throne of his Father.2
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
He did not say, “After this I saw another people,” but “I saw a people,” that is, the same people that he had seen in the mystery of the 144,000, which he now sees as without number from every tribe and tongue and nation. For by believing, all nations have been engrafted into the root. In the Gospel the Lord showed forth in the [figure of the] twelve tribes the whole church both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. He said, “You will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”3
One of the elders asked the Evangelist who those were who were from the nations and were clothed in white robes. He asked this not because he himself did not know but rather to urge the Evangelist to make them known more fully. And so he says, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” For the righteous endured not a small struggle, but indeed an exceedingly great struggle during the rule of the antichrist.4
This reward is to be assigned especially to those in the church who have spilled their blood for Christ and have returned the robe of baptism with a greater brilliance by a better service of blood. But if this grace is to refer to all the faithful generally, we must finally conclude that if anyone is cleansed by the font of his Lord, is fed by his flesh and is enflamed by the call of the Spirit, he is in this manner made white as snow. For there are those who are proven to be martyrs before God by their inner character, even though they are not martyrs by way of a public act.5
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
These are not, as some think, only martyrs, but rather the whole people in the church. For it does not say that they washed their robes in their own blood but in the blood of the Lamb, that is, in the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. As it is written, “And the blood of his Son has cleansed us.”6
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:2–3. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 104). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:9–17. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:9, HOMILY 6. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:9–17. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:13–14. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION ON THE APOCALYPSE 7:14, HOMILY 6. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.